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Erica Esterby, Fargo, Published August 26 2012

Letter: Berg gets a pass from The Forum

Unlike Rick Berg, Heidi Heitkamp knows the importance of debates, but you wouldn’t really know that from The Forum’s coverage of the race. The Forum’s recent story (Analysis: Heitkamp, Berg carefully control messages, appearances in nationally watched Senate race) criticizes both candidates for failing to appear together for debates. The story paints a picture in which both candidates prefer negative TV ads to debates, and that’s just not true.

What the story fails to emphasize is Heitkamp’s insistence that there be more than just two 30-minute debates. Heitkamp has requested seven debates, I believe, including debates on specific issues. Voters need to hear these kind of debates to make an informed decision come November and the election.

Berg, on the other hand, has been hiding. He knows debates mean he’ll have to answer difficult questions about his record, from support for the Ryan budget, with cuts to the farm bill, to his votes to repeal the entirety of the health care law, including the Frontier Amendment. It seems that Berg would rather run a campaign of 30-second negative ads, while Heitkamp is trying to make the election about issues and debates. The Forum fails to draw this distinction in the story, and in doing so shirks its duty to hold Berg accountable to the people of North Dakota.

The Forum has a responsibility to be fair in its coverage of this race and make sure North Dakotans know the truth: that Heitkamp wants to debate. But it’s not much of a debate if she’s the only one willing to take part. I think it’s time that Berg agrees to debates, and time that The Forum hold him accountable for his reluctance.